Singers Dancers Dazzle Morristown Onstage Auditions
MORRISTOWN – From Broadway hits to a stand-up act, the auditions for 10th annual Morristown Onstage brought a wide variety of talent to the high school auditorium Saturday.
“We’re psyched about the show,” said Debbie Sontupe, executive director of the Morris Educational Foundation, which runs Morristown Onstage. “It’s our 10 year anniversary and we’re looking for a great mix.”
Sixty-four acts form Morristown, Morris Township, and Morris Plains auditioned for 16 finalist spots over nine hours on Saturday.
“What we’re finding is the talent in the auditions have really improved since year one,” Sontupe said. “We’re really able to attract some truly talented people who live, work, and go to school here. That’s been really special for us.”
The morning portion of the auditions saw several younger acts take the stage, from Payton McGuinn, a six-year old dancer, to Morris Township sixth grader Shannon Melody Burns, who sang “Somewhere over the Rainbow.”
But there were still a few early birds trying out for the adult slots in the show, like 64-year old Michael Montemurro. He performs regularly at Morristown bars and restaurants and took his acoustic guitar onstage to audition after encouragement from his wife, performing Marc Cohn’s “Walking in Memphis.”
“I’m excited to play in a place where people will sit and listen to me,” Montemurro said. “As opposed to a bar where I’m drowned out by all the other noise.”
Another auditioning act saw a quartet of violinist and cellists, seventh graders from Frelinghuysen Middle School who call themselves 2V2C, use their strings to perform the theme song to “Mission: Impossible.”
Andy Glaser, a lawyer at Morristown Medical Center who lives in Morris Plains delivered a first in the show’s 10 year history, a stand-up act.
“We love having novelty acts, from a previous winner who recited her own poetry to a professional whistler,” Sontupe said. “Morristown onstage is about the breadth of talents, not only singing, dancing and bands.”
Glaser said she saw the signs to audition just a little too late last year and missed the deadline. She’s spent the last year performing in the Tri-State area, honing her craft.
“It’s been a lifelong ambition. I’ve wanted to do stand-up comedy for my entire life and finally worked up the nerve about a year ago,” Glaser said. “Every aspect of my everyday life I try to find humor in. Especially when things are hard or stressful.”
Despite some nerves, Glaser thought the audition went well.
Some who auditioned were previous finalists, like 12-year-old Evan Boncelet, a Frelinghuysen Middle School student who two years ago took to the Mayo Performing Arts Center stage donning a fedora and blazer to sing Bruno Mars’ “When I Was Your Man.”
Saturday, he stood on the high school stage – several inches taller than last time, as some judges noted – and sang “Somewhere” from “West Side Story.” “I wanted to come back because I like to make people happy,” Boncelet said. “And I had a lot of fun doing the show last time.”
Another veteran, Morristown High School junior Charlotte MacMurray, returned after being a finalist just this past February.
For that show, the Broadway hopeful sang a song from the musical “Wicked,” and she stayed the course this time, singing “Fly, Fly Away” from the musical “Catch Me If You Can.” MacMurray said she is also starring in that play soon at Delbarton.
Morristown Onstage will be held at Mayo Performing Arts Center on March 1. Tickets will go on sale early next year.
Sontupe said the show would be a tribute to the show’s first decade.
“We have some surprises in the works, honoring the history of the show, the people, the acts and the community,” Sontupe said. “Everyone who has been with us for 10 years, we want to celebrate all that support. It’s going to be fun.”
The competition will again be judged by four entertainment professionals, who will award two $1,000 prizes to contestants above and below 18 years old. A $500 audience choice winner and a $250 Rossoff Rising Star winner will also be chosen.
This year’s judges will include two Morristown High School alumni who are now working in the music industry. Ben Sesar, a Class of ’88 graduate and touring drummer for country music star Brad Paisley will be joined by Class of ’10 alum Aaron Velasquez, a successful beatboxer and previous Morristown Onstage winner.
Morristown-resident Tara Bernie of “Access Hollywood” will once again return as master of ceremonies.
The regularly sold out show has raised more than $400,000 for the Morris Educational Foundation in its first nine years, including $90,000 last year. Money raised by the foundation benefits students in the Morris School District.
Go to www.morristownonstage.com for more on the show.
Staff Writer Michael Izzo: 973-428-6636; mizzo@GannettNJ.com